As Fox News turns on Disney, advertisers supporting LGBTQ youth should be wary of partnering with the network
Like Disney, leading Fox News advertisers including General Motors, Kraft Heinz, and Pfizer oppose Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law. Could the network turn on them next?
On March 28, Disney voiced opposition to Florida's “Don't Say Gay" law, saying in a statement that its “goal as a company” is for the law to be repealed. Fox News responded with a misinformation campaign attacking Disney for sexualizing or “grooming” children, airing over 3 hours of coverage in one week. Fox's crusade should be raising alarm bells for the network’s other lead advertisers — especially General Motors, Kraft Heinz, and Pfizer, which joined Disney in opposing the law and supporting LGBTQ youth.
The relationship between Disney and Fox is an unusual one. In 2019, Disney acquired much of Fox Corp. for $71 billion, leaving Fox with control over its own news and sports programming — like the Fox broadcasting channel, Fox News, Fox Sports 1, and Fox Sports 2. A year later, Disney removed the Fox name from assets it had acquired, including 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight, reportedly over the perception that they were affiliated with the right-wing network. But the Murdoch family is reportedly one of Disney’s largest shareholders following their deal with the company (a representative declined to answer CNN when the network asked if the family had since sold its shares). According to Media Matters’ internal data, Disney advertised on Fox most recently with an ESPN ad that aired March 1 (ESPN is a subsidiary of Disney).
But this history and potential financial entanglement haven't stopped Fox News’ star personalities from launching outrageous attacks against the media giant.
Disney is not alone in supporting LGBTQ youth by coming out against the “Don’t Say Gay” law in Florida and targeting products at young LGBTQ people — the types of actions that Fox host Laura Ingraham and Fox guests have absurdly compared to “grooming.” Among Fox News’ advertisers, General Motors, Kraft Heinz, and Pfizer all signed a petition for businesses opposing the “Don’t Say Gay” law in Florida. The law has been roundly condemned by the Biden administration and civil rights organizations. The Trevor Project describes the bill as “effectively erasing LGBTQ identity, history, and culture,” noting that “LGBTQ youth who learned about LGBTQ issues or people in classes at school had 23% lower odds of reporting a suicide attempt in the past year.”
In addition to signing onto the petition, General Motors was the first automaker to run a Pride-specific ad, made a video telling LGBTQ youth that “it gets better,” and advertised its electric Chevrolet Volt with a comparison to an LGBTQ person coming out. Kraft Heinz ran a 2020 Pride campaign raising money for Brave Space Alliance and in 2021 released a limited edition children’s book on pronouns.
Beyond backing up its corporate statements with its advertising dollars, health care company Pfizer has a further stake in protecting its company from Fox’s volatility and hate. Fox News’ talent have increasingly attacked gender-affirming care with misinformation, with Tucker Carlson falsely claiming in a segment with disgraced white nationalist Stephen Miller that “gender-affirming care is a euphemism for chemical castration.” In reality, research shows that gender-affirming care, including puberty blockers, is associated with dramatically better health outcomes for trans people, especially if accessed prior to adolescence.
Pfizer is involved in the manufacturing of at least one of the drugs involved in these treatments. The company makes an oral gonadotropin-releasing hormone antagonist that could be used as a puberty blocker. Given that Fox hosts previously attacked Pfizer for its COVID-19 vaccine, it is perhaps only a matter of time before Carlson, Ingraham, and others give the pharmaceutical giant the same treatment that they’ve given Disney.
Aligning with a Kremlin-approved company that pushes deadly misinformation and hate could damage any company’s reputation. Furthermore, right-wing media have demonstrated a willingness to organize politically motivated backlash against companies they view as at odds with their financial or political interests. Advertisers should take note.